Autocross is some of the best fun you can have as an automotive enthusiast. It is very safe and easy to enter, yet very hard to master, meaning you can hone your skill your whole life. Not to mention, there is also enjoyment in building the perfect autocross car and meddling with its suspension.
However, the single most important thing for being successful on an autocross course is the tires. Autocross is all about having the highest possible grip and the most agile handling, and your car's tires will be the primary source of those things. Sure, a good suspension will also make your car handle better, but only if you have the best autocross tires installed.
But with all the high-performance options available on the market and all those different autocross categories, it is difficult to find a set of tires that will give you the best lap time. Not to mention, you will also need to pay attention to their wear characteristics – you surely wouldn't want to pay for a new set of tires after each autocross event.
An even bigger issue is choosing the right category for you. Some performance tires are more road-oriented, while others are track-oriented. Both are good for a certain type of driver, and choosing the right set could give you a competitive advantage.
Fortunately, you arrived at the right place to find the best autocross tires for your needs. In this article, I will give you my list of the best street-legal performance autocross tires and special autocross tires while also answering all your lingering questions. That way, you will make a more informed decision the next time you buy autocross tires and learn more about the sport in general.
So, without further ado, let's unravel the autocross tire mystery and find a top-notch set that will take you up the pecking order!
- Best Street-Legal Racetrack/Autocross Tires
- Best Special Autocross/Racetrack Tires
- Best Extreme-Performance Summer Tires for Autocross
- Best Max-Performance Summer Tires for Autocross
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Buying Guide
Best Street-Legal Racetrack/Autocross Tires
1. Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R
Although you will see most online reviewers praising the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 for its overall performance abilities, that is not the best street-legal autocross available on the market. In my testing, the Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R takes the cake from its French rival, and it's not even close.
Put simply, Pirelli's street-legal racetrack tire wipes the floor with the competition in dry conditions. You will get performance from this tire that you won't from some special autocross tires that aren't street-legal – that's how good it is.
And like with most exceptional performance tires, it all starts with the steering and overall handling balance. The P Zero Trofeo R is a very responsive tire that quickly reacts to your inputs, but there is also linearity and precision to the steering that makes it so sweet to drive on tight autocross tracks.
Furthermore, the handling balance is very neutral, meaning the tire will allow you to do what you want with your car without exhibiting too much understeer or oversteer. It is also easy to control at the limit – great news for experienced drivers that know how to drive at 110%.
The lateral grip this tire provides is simply on another level for street-legal rubber. You can achieve dizzying speeds in the corners, almost on the level of near-slick performance tires. The dry braking distances are also significantly shorter than other tires in the category, and you will really need a powerful car to break the traction during hard acceleration.
Still, the P Zero Trofeo R is a street-legal car, meaning it needs to cover daily-driving duties well. And it does, but with one little caveat – it suffers from hydroplaning much more than its closest rival, the Pilot Sport Cup 2.
In that sense, it is not as streetable, but I think most autocross drivers will be ready to sacrifice some hydroplaning resistance for ultimate autocross performance. Besides, the wet traction is actually on par with the Michelin, so if there is no standing water on the road, you will experience similar lateral grip and longitudinal traction.
The P Zero Trofeo R is also one of the most durable street-legal racetrack tires. It reacts very well to high-temperature changes and has very good treadlife for such a tire. Just make sure you put some heat before putting it through its paces, and it will surely last you for more than ten autocross events.
Although not very important for potential buyers, the P Zero Trofeo R isn't particularly comfortable on the road. Expect higher road noise and worse ride quality, especially over broken roads. Not unusual for such an aggressive track tire, but I thought it would be good to mention it.
- Most agile autocross tire with the most precise and responsive steering
- Highest lateral grip in its category on dry roads
- By far the shortest dry braking distances in the category
- Exceptional handling balance in dry and wet conditions
- Good wet braking and lateral grip
- Wears very well for a racetrack tire
- Hydroplaning issues on the street
- Not very comfortable or quiet
2. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
Michelin's Pilot Sport Cup 2 is one of the most popular track-focused summer tires among automakers for several reasons. For starters, it combines exceptional track grip with usable street characteristics better than any of its competitors, and it is also the most durable track-ready tire out there.
But you are here to read about its autocross qualities, and I am happy to say that they are excellent. Michelin's track tire can't quite compete with the P Zero Trofeo R in outright grip and traction. Namely, it can't achieve the same speeds in the corners and requires braking earlier before a corner. It does provide exceptional acceleration traction, though, so you can apply throttle sooner.
The Pilot Sport Cup 2 might be behind its closest rival in the measurable metrics, but it certainly doesn't lag behind with the subjective feel. The handling balance on this tire is perfect, which didn't surprise me because the Pilot Sport Cup 2 was designed with the help of many automakers, including Porsche.
Moreover, the steering is very quick and precise, but more importantly, very tactile and communicative. As a result, the car will feel like it dances and listens to all your commands. This makes it great on an autocross course, where handling balance and steering precision are key.
Unlike its closest rival, the P Zero Trofeo R, the Pilot Sport Cup 2 can also work well during heavy rain, thanks to the much better hydroplaning resistance. Sure, it won't match the Pilot Sport 4S on standing water, but it is the best you can get from a track-focused summer tire. I had no problems driving in rainy conditions with the Pilot Sport Cup 2, really.
As far as wet traction goes, the Pilot Sport Cup 2 provides the shortest stopping distances, accompanied by a very good lateral grip. If you put the excellent hydroplaning resistance into the equation, the excellent rain performance makes Michelin's track model the best autocross tire on rainy days.
The solid comfort this tire provides only adds to its streetable characteristics. The ride is smoother than on similar track-focused summer tires, particularly on bad roads, which might give you a performance edge on bad autocross courses. The Pilot Sport Cup 2 is also not very noisy for such an aggressive tire, producing only a moderate tread noise at highway speeds.
Lastly, the Pilot Sport Cup 2 was proven to be the most durable track-focused summer tire, with treadlife that exceeds that of its rivals. It is also generally more resistant to high-temperature changes than its foes, which only adds to its excellent durability score.
- Exceptionally balanced and agile – great for precision driving
- High lateral grip and longitudinal traction in dry conditions
- Quick, precise, and tactile steering
- Good braking, acceleration, and lateral grip in wet conditions
- Excellent hydroplaning resistance for a track-focused tire
- Best autocross tire in wet conditions
- Comfortable for a track-focused summer tire
- Not as grippy on a dry tarmac as the Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R
3. Dunlop Sport Maxx Race 2
Dunlop's entry into the track-focused performance tire category is now in its second generation. The previous model was already very popular and one of my favorites to drive on dry roads, thanks to the agile and balanced handling.
However, it wasn't particularly good in wet conditions, which is an area where Dunlop made some improvements. Now, the Sport Maxx Race 2 will give you comparable lateral grip and longitudinal traction to its rivals from Pirelli and Michelin. It also handles securely in light rain conditions, with predictable behavior at the limit. That said, hydroplaning is still an issue at higher speeds, especially during heavy rain.
The Sport Maxx Race 2 is a beast on an autocross track, as it has similar grip and traction levels to the Pilot Sport Cup 2 and Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R. Notably, it provides very short stopping distances and achieves very high speeds through the corners.
The handling balance was also exceptional – I could throw the car around easily without worrying about it spinning on me. This is crucial for autocross, as it allows you to push your car to the limit and compete with the best drivers.
Nonetheless, I wasn't as satisfied with the steering. It is still tremendously quick and linear, but it's not as precise as Pirelli's or Michelin's track-oriented tires. This is perhaps due to the slightly softer sidewalls, which improve the tire's ability to grip the surface on bumpy autocross tracks. With that said, it's probably only an issue if you have already tried its competitors – in isolation, the Sport Maxx Race 2 is plenty responsive and tactile.
What those softer sidewalls allow is excellent ride comfort. Sure, the Sport Maxx Race 2 won't give you the smooth ride of a touring tire, but it's undoubtedly smoother than its rivals on the road. It is also not very noisy for such an aggressive track tire, but you will definitely hear the tread growl at highway speeds – there is no escaping from that.
The Sport Maxx Race 2 wears quite well, on par with the P Zero Trofeo R. On the road, you will easily get over 10,000 miles from this tire, but you can also compete in over 12 autocross events. The Sport Maxx Race 2 also seems resistant to high temperatures and doesn't lose its grip ability when driven hard over several laps on the track.
Overall, an excellent competitor in the category that certainly deserves the attention of every autocross driver that competes in a category where street-legal tires are mandatory.
- Exceptional lateral grip in dry conditions
- It feels agile and fun to drive on the track
- Outstanding grip and traction on damp tarmac (light rain)
- Solid comfort for such an aggressive track-ready performance tire
- Reduced steering precision compared to its closest rivals
- Hydroplaning is an issue during rainy days
Best Special Autocross/Racetrack Tires
4. Hoosier A7
The Hoosier A7 is currently the most popular special autocross tire among pros, as it was designed exactly with that sport in mind. It might look similar to Hoosier's R7, but it has a much softer compound that will give you maximum grip at lower temperatures and lower speeds, making it perfect for autocross.
This tire is really no joke – it will give your car similar grip levels to a slick tire. Therefore, it will also need to be paired with an advanced suspension. If you put it on your regular car suspension, you can expect it to bottom out during hard cornering or braking and still not break traction. So, only put the Hoosier A7 on a special autocross vehicle.
With that said, you will definitely compete for the top spots with the Hoosier A7. The lateral grip this tire provides is simply on another level than anything else I tried in the category. I was able to achieve mind-blowing speeds through the corners while still not breaking traction.
You really need to drive like a maniac to start losing traction on this tire. When it happens, though, it won't be as gradual as on a street-legal track tire, but the Hoosier A7 is still very predictable for the category. The super-quick and precise steering will certainly help you control everything, as it feels tactile and linear.
Furthermore, the handling balance is very neutral, both on FWD and RWD cars, giving you a tremendous amount of control over the way you want your vehicle to behave. I was also very impressed with the braking performance – the stopping distances were very short, and the car felt stable under braking. In addition, I never felt like I needed more traction when accelerating hard out of a corner.
With all that said, it's important to note that the Hoosier A7 has a very soft compound, which wears pretty fast. This shouldn't be an issue on autocross courses, where lower speeds and temperatures are involved and where you have time between sessions. Still, you will definitely spend money more often by opting for these tires. If you are only into track days, I strongly recommend the harder Hoosier R7, which will continue to perform strongly after a few laps, unlike the A7.
If this wasn't apparent to you, the Hoosier A7 isn't designed to be driven on wet surfaces since it will suffer greatly from hydroplaning. Moreover, it is not street-legal, meaning you can only enjoy it on the track.
- The highest lateral grip of any autocross tire currently available
- Short stopping distances and excellent stability under braking
- Exceptionally responsive and linear steering
- Predictable at the limit of traction
- Very balanced handling
- Unusable in wet conditions
- Wears very quickly
5. Toyo Proxes RA1
If you want to compete like a pro, you will also need a special autocross wet tire for those rainy days. The Toyo Proxes RA1 is one such tire, designed for maximum grip on wet surfaces, but one that can also work well on dry roads when shaved down. Please note that you can only use this tire on a closed course, as it is not street-legal.
But that's not because it won't work well in the rain. On the opposite, the Proxes RA1 is designed as a wet autocross tire, thanks to the circumferential grooves and independent tread blocks. As a result, hydroplaning isn't an issue, and you will get excellent traction on wet surfaces.
So, if you ever encounter rain on the autocross course, you can just put these tires on and beat your competitors quite easily. The Proxes RA1 not only provides solid wet traction but also feels very balanced, easy to drive, and predictable at the limit. It's a really nice tire to drive in the rain and also one that's very competitive.
But what about dry tarmac? Well, the thing with the Proxes RA1 is that you can shave it down to 3/32 inches of tread depth and get an almost slick track tire with only two circumferential grooves. By doing this, you will lose the wet abilities of the tire, but you will get an exceptional grip on dry roads.
And boy, this tire sticks to the surface. The lateral grip is on another level compared to what you'd get from a street-legal track tire, allowing you to push your vehicle harder than ever before. Moreover, the stopping distances will be very short, and your vehicle will find it very hard to produce slipping during acceleration.
Overall, the grip may be slightly lower than on the Hoosier A7, which is a dry-only track tire, but the Proxes RA1 has other tricks up its sleeve. I was particularly impressed by how it handled at the limit, as it lost traction gradually and predictably. The handling was also very balanced, and the steering was very precise and tactile.
Another thing that I really liked about this tire is that its performance doesn't fall off after long driving sessions. Moreover, since you get all that meaty tread on the tire, you will get a longer treadlife and extract more autocross sessions from the Proxes RA1.
- Best rain autocross tire currently available
- Good hydroplaning resistance and excellent wet traction
- Balanced handling in the rain
- Strong performer on dry tarmac (when shaved down to 3/32 inches)
- Loses traction gradually and feels predictable at the limit
- It doesn't mind being driven hard for longer periods
- Not very grippy on dry surfaces when new
- You need to shave the tread for maximum dry grip
Best Extreme-Performance Summer Tires for Autocross
6. Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS
The Potenza RE-71RS is my new favorite extreme-performance summer tire. It's not only good on the track but also a tire that you can use on your daily driver. Therefore, if you use the same car for autocross events and daily driving and you aren't ready to pay for two sets of tires, the Potenza RE-71RS is by far the best option.
Bridgestone's new model builds on the popularity of the RE-71R and improves in some key areas. Most notably, the steering is not even better. The front tires react quickly to your input and feel linear through the corner while also providing excellent straight-line tracking. But unlike most of its competitors, the Potenza RE-71RS feels tactile and granular, communicating well with the driver.
Fortunately, the remarkable steering is matched with class-leading grip and traction. The front tires are not only responsive, but they also grip the surface immediately, while the back tires follow obediently without destabilizing the rear end. You can achieve some dizzying speeds with the Potenza RE-71RS in the corners and go faster than any other extreme-performance summer tire.
Bridgestone's tire also provides the shortest stopping distances in its category and feels very stable under braking. I also never had issues with acceleration – the driven wheels always had traction in spades when exiting a corner.
On top of that, the overall handling balance is exceptional – the Potenza RE-71RS allowed me to go fast and focus on driving rather than worrying that the car would spin on me. In that sense, the Potenza RE-71RS puts a level of trust in you that's hard to match with any of its competitors.
Furthermore, I was impressed with the performance in light rain, i.e., on damp tarmac. The Potenza RE-71RS continued to perform excellently, with high levels of lateral grip and longitudinal traction. The handling also remained natural and balanced, and the steering was still impressive.
However, due to the minimal tread pattern, the Potenza RE-71RS will have hydroplaning issues during heavy rain. Therefore, you should drive more slowly when it pours outside. Also, this isn't a comfortable tire. The ride is harsh and hard, and the tread growl easily enters the cabin.
With that said, the Potenza RE-71RS should be one of the longest-wearing extreme-performance summer tires. It also performs well on longer driving sessions and remains grippy and stable.
- Unparalleled dry surface grip, providing confidence-inspiring lateral stability at high speeds
- Outstanding braking performance ensures quick stops and consistent stability under heavy deceleration
- Excellent traction during corner exits, ensuring power is transferred to the ground effectively for rapid acceleration
- Dependable grip on damp roads, maintaining performance even in slightly wet conditions
- The steering feels responsive and smooth, offering precise control and feedback for driver inputs
- Road noise is pronounced, and the ride becomes uncomfortable on bumpy, uneven roads, compromising the comfort of passengers
- Tires struggle to resist hydroplaning under heavy rain, limiting their performance in wet conditions
7. Falken Azenis RT660
Falken's Azenis RT660 is another excellent extreme-performance summer tire that will be great for autocross drivers that want to save some money. It is a tire that almost matches the Potenza RE-71RS in the driving experience department and one that will certainly give you a competitive advantage, even over tires from premium tiremakers.
Notably, the Azenis RT660 sticks to the road better than some popular options from reputable manufacturers, like Continental and Michelin. Really, the lateral grip is exceptional, and the longitudinal traction is excellent. Thus, you can attack corners at very high speeds, stop later, and accelerate sooner. That is what autocross is all about, right?
But the driving experience also counts, and the Azenis RT660 scores highly there as well. The steering is very quick, but it also offers very good feedback, allowing you excellent control over your vehicle. It also feels linear and very tactile.
The overall handling balance of the tire is very neutral, with only a slight hint of understeer, which should suit novice drivers. In addition, the Azenis RT660 is very stable under hard braking and feels planted when you apply throttle out of a corner.
I was also impressed by the performance on a damp tarmac. The Azenis RT660 wasn't as good as the Potenza RE-71RS, but it was very close in terms of grip and traction. It also remained drivable and predictable at the limit, though, like its rival from Bridgestone, it did suffer from hydroplaning during heavy rain. I would drive much more slowly if it rains on the street with this tire.
With that said, there is one caveat with the Azenis RT660 that might be a deal breaker for autocross drivers. Namely, this tire requires heat before it starts performing at the highest level, meaning you will need a test run or two before the time trial. It still grips the road fine, meaning you won't have any issues on the street, but it definitely needs heat to be competitive on the autocross course.
On the flip side, it doesn't wear very fast, meaning you can go through many autocross events before needing a replacement. This also makes it a great option for track days, where the Azenis RT660 can endure quite a lot of laps before it starts to slow down or wear significantly.
Like most extreme-performance summer tires, though, the Azenis RT660 is not very comfortable. The ride is firm and harsh, especially over broken tarmac, and you can easily hear the tread growl in the cabin. So, it's not a good companion on longer journeys, but that's hardly surprising for the category.
- Provides incredible dry surface grip, ensuring the car stays planted during high-speed maneuvers
- Potent braking and acceleration traction, allowing for confident deceleration and rapid out-of-the-corner acceleration
- Steering is ultra-responsive, offering instant feedback and control
- The tire remains stable and secure under heavy braking, minimizing squirm and promoting confidence
- Demonstrates great performance on damp tracks, maintaining traction and control in slightly wet conditions
- The tires require a bit of heat to reach maximum grip, which may not be ideal in colder conditions or during short runs
- Limited capability in heavy rain due to hydroplaning, compromising safety and control in wet conditions
- The ride can be rough and noisy, potentially detracting from the driving experience during daily use
Best Max-Performance Summer Tires for Autocross
8. Bridgestone Potenza Sport
Want a tire that is equally adept on the autocross course and the street? Look no further than the Potenza Sport. Bridgestone's latest max-performance summer tire is by far the most enjoyable to drive in its category on dry and wet roads while also providing a tremendous amount of grip and traction.
It all starts with the steering, which is a step ahead of every other max-performance summer tire. The Potenza Sport has that granularity that track tires offer built into it, accompanied by quick reflexes and excellent linearity. You will enjoy driving your sports car on this tire and certainly feel like you are in control of the autocross course. The steering is simply sublime on this tire.
Thankfully, Bridgestone backed that up with an outstanding grip on dry surfaces. The Potenza Sport allows very high cornering speeds, short stopping distances, and excellent acceleration traction. But it's more than that – the handling balance is also very neutral, without a hint of any oversteer or understeer. At the same time, the tire remains agile and playful, which is great news for autocross drivers.
The Potenza Sport continues to impress in rainy conditions. The wet surface traction is among the highest in the category, making this tire very usable on a rainy day, even when you drive competitively. Notably, it provides very short stopping distances, accelerates without too much wheel spin, and can drive very quickly through the corners.
Just like on dry tarmac, the Potenza Sport remains playful and nimble in the rain while also being stable and surefooted. It's a feat that few other tires match, showing Bridgestone's commitment to delivering tires that are fun to drive but also safe. Oh, and unlike its more extreme counterpart, the Potenza RE-71RS, the Potenza Sport doesn't have any issues with hydroplaning.
With that said, the Potenza Sport is not as comfortable as its rivals. Max-performance summer tires spend most of their time on the street, so the harsh ride and noisy operation at speed might be an issue for some buyers. Still, I think this won't bother you if you also use it for autocross because it will easily beat those same competitors on the track.
Also, it's important to note that the Potenza Sport wears faster than its closest rivals. People are getting around 15,000 miles on these tires before a replacement is necessary, compared to almost 25,000 miles for tires like the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. Also, you don't get any treadwear warranty on this tire, which is a bummer for the price. But it seems like there is always a price to pay for performance.
- Steering is precise and instinctive, offering immediate feedback that brings joy to spirited driving.
- The tire feels very agile in handling, responding swiftly and accurately to steering inputs
- The dry surface grip is top-notch, rivaling the performance of track-specific tires, ensuring a firm grip even at high speeds
- Exceptional dry surface braking and acceleration, allowing the car to decelerate rapidly and accelerate without losing traction
- High wet surface traction ensures short stopping distances and reliable control in wet conditions.
- Outstanding cornering stability in wet conditions, maintaining grip and control even under hard cornering in the rain
- The ride can be rough on uneven surfaces, potentially causing discomfort on longer distances
- The tires may generate noticeable noise during highway driving
9. Continental ExtremeContact Sport 02
The ExtremeContact Sport 02 is another max-performance summer tire that doesn't impresses with its comfort qualities. Notably, the ride is smooth and comfortable enough on good roads, but it can be harsh over repetitive and sharp impacts. Moreover, the ExtremeContact Sport 02 produces a high-pitched noise that can be tiresome on longer journeys, especially on rough tarmac.
With that said, unlike its Bridgestone rival, the ExtremeContact Sport 02 comes with a 30,000-mile treadwear warranty. This makes it only the second max-performance tire that comes with a warranty after the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. Real-world impressions are also very good – Continental's tire really has an excellent treadlife.
All the while, the ExtremeContact Sport 02 is a very fun tire to drive. The steering might not be as quick as on the Potenza Sport, but it's still responsive and linear. It also communicates well with the driver and provides excellent feedback. This is important on autocross courses, where you need as much precision and responsiveness as possible.
Furthermore, the ExtremeContact Sport 02 is among the best performers in its category when it comes to grip and traction. On dry roads, the lateral grip of this tire feels surreal – you really need to drive very aggressively in the corners to overcome the tire's grip. In addition, the tire provides some of the shortest stopping distances, along with exceptional acceleration traction.
The handling balance of the ExtremeContact Sport 02 is also very natural and well-balanced. Your car will feel like on rails with a set of these tires, without any hint of oversteer or understeer. However, the tire still manages to feel nimble and playful – perfect for an autocross course.
As much as Continental's max-performance summer tire is good on dry roads, it is even more competitive in the rain. The German tiremaker keeps doing an excellent job regarding wet traction – the ExtremeContact Sport 02 provides the shortest stopping distances in its category and can achieve some of the highest speeds in the corners.
But how it feels subjectively makes this tire even more impressive. Namely, it is very predictable at the limit and allows you to drive at the limit all of the time while also feeling very agile. At the same time, it is very stable and surefooted.
So, overall, the ExtremeContact Sport 02 seems like an excellent tire for people that mostly drive on the street but need a capable performer on amateur autocross events.
- Excellent dry surface traction and braking capabilities, ensuring the car stays planted during high-speed maneuvers and stops quickly when needed
- Superior wet weather performance, offering reliable braking and handling even in rainy conditions
- Steering responsiveness is well-balanced, providing good feedback and control without being overly sensitive
- Provides a comfortable ride on most road conditions, absorbing road imperfections effectively
- This is the first Continental summer tire that comes with a treadwear warranty, offering peace of mind for your investment
- Owners have reported an expected long-lasting treadlife, making this a cost-effective choice in the long run
- The tires may produce a high-pitched noise at highway speeds, which could become annoying during long drives
- The ride can be uncomfortable on severely damaged roads, potentially causing discomfort during daily use
10. Pirelli P Zero (PZ4)
Most of the tires I listed above are very uncomfortable on the street. For competitive autocross drivers, that is a small price to pay, but what if comfort is very important to you? Then, I recommend the P Zero (PZ4), an excellent max-performance summer tire for people that mostly drive their sports cars on the street.
In particular, the P Zero (PZ4) rides very smoothly over any surface. I tried it on smooth asphalt and came out impressed with how comfortable the ride was, particularly at higher speeds.
However, unlike most of its rivals, the P Zero (PZ4) remains comfortable on bad roads with many repetitive and sharp impacts. On top of that, Pirelli's max-performance summer tire is very quiet, even at higher speeds and over rough tarmac.
With that said, Pirelli sacrificed some steering response to give you a smoother ride. The initial steering response of this tire is slower than that of its rivals, which could be a dealbreaker for some drivers. Still, it's not all negative – the steering still feels very linear and precise and gives a lot of feedback from the road. In that sense, it will still be good to drive on an autocross, though you will need time to adjust to it.
Apart from the somewhat slower steering response, the P Zero (PZ4) is competitive when it comes to grip and traction. The lateral grip on dry surfaces is actually among the highest in the category, the braking distances are very short, and you will be able to accelerate quickly out of a corner.
The P Zero (PZ4) also feels very agile, which is not surprising for a Pirelli tire. The handling balance is very neutral, with only a slight hint of understeer, and the behavior at the limit is very predictable.
Furthermore, the tire performs excellently in rainy conditions. It has excellent hydroplaning resistance – you can drive through puddles of water without losing stability. Moreover, the wet surface traction is excellent, meaning short stopping distances, good acceleration, and high lateral grip. Like on dry surfaces, the handling balance is exceptional.
Sadly, Pirelli doesn't provide a treadwear warranty on the P Zero (PZ4). This is not surprising for a max-performance summer tire, but some competitors, like the Continental ExtremeContact Sport 02 and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S, come with treadwear warranties. Thankfully, the real-world treadlife is pretty good, and you should get 20,000+ miles on this tire.
- High wet surface lateral grip and acceleration, ensuring the car stays stable and responsive even in rainy conditions
- The tire offers well-rounded dry and wet surface handling, maintaining control and performance in various weather conditions
- Dry surface lateral grip and braking are superior, ensuring the car stays planted during high-speed maneuvers
- Offers a smooth ride even on rough surfaces, thanks to its composition and construction, which helps absorb road imperfections effectively
- The tire is quiet during highway driving, minimizing road noise for a more pleasant driving experience
- The Pirelli P Zero (PZ4) does not come with a treadwear warranty, so there's less protection for your investment compared to some other tire options
- Initial steering response can be lackluster
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Buying Guide
- What is Autocross?
Autocross is a competitive form of motorsport that emphasizes safe competition by utilizing tight courses and lower speeds. Moreover, the competition is held in large parking lots, where the driver will have enough room to stop when losing control of the car without hitting anything.
It is a timed competition, meaning drivers don't race at the same time, and the course is set up using traffic cones. The driver that sets the fastest time wins the competition, but it is important to note that knocking over a cone or missing the track results in a time penalty.
- Why are tires so important in Autocross?
Autocross puts a big emphasis on tires because they form the contact point between the car and the road. Moreover, stability under braking and acceleration, high lateral grip, and short stopping distances are all crucial in achieving good times, and the tires play a crucial role there.
Therefore, the right tire in the right conditions can make a big difference in autocross. With a set of high-quality premium tires, you can attack the track harder without worrying about spinning out, i.e., good tires will win you autocross races.
- What differentiates autocross tires from regular road tires?
Autocross tires are specifically designed for maximum grip, with most other aspects being overlooked by engineers. Notably, these tires have very soft and sticky tread compounds, which give tremendous lateral grip and longitudinal traction during low-speed and high-speed cornering without the need to put much heat into them (though it is still desirable for maximum grip).
All autocross tires have some sort of tread pattern, but its purpose is different from the one on regular tires. Namely, the grooves of these tires are there to cool the tire and resist heat buildup, which can have a detrimental effect on the performance. Still, the patterns are very minimal in an effort to maximize contact with the road and, therefore, increase grip and traction.
However, special autocross tires aren't road legal. That is because they don't have enough tread depth to be usable on wet tarmac and will suffer from hydroplaning even under very light rain. Moreover, due to the soft tread compound, autocross tires wear much faster than regular tires, meaning they aren't designed for covering long distances.
Not to mention, autocross tires also have very stiff sidewalls that make them very uncomfortable on public roads and tend to produce a lot of noise. Therefore, they are really only designed for use on an autocross track or for track days.
For that reason, I often recommend road-legal autocross tires to amateur racers. These will sacrifice some grip on the track, but you can also use them on the road. In addition, they tend to last longer and are much more usable in rainy conditions.
- How do I choose the best autocross tires for my vehicle?
You should definitely consider your vehicle's make and model. Namely, lighter vehicles can get away with less aggressive tires, while heavier cars will need stickier tires to account for the added weight.
However, the thing that affects your tire choice the most is the type of competition. If you are an amateur that competes for fun, then a road-legal track tire is a much better proposition. However, if you are serious about winning races and competing in professional competitions, then a special autocross/track tire is your only option.
Regardless, talk with more experienced racers, as they have most probably tried numerous sets of tires before finding the perfect set.
- What are the top brands for autocross tires?
It depends on the type of tire you are looking for, but Toyo is a really hot brand among professional autocross racers, along with Hoosier. However, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli, Falken, BFGoodrich, and Yokohama all offer exceptional road-legal autocross tires that you can trust on the autocross track.
- How often should I replace my autocross tires?
The frequency of tire replacement can depend on several factors, including the tire compound, how hard you drive, and the specific conditions of the courses you run.
Notably, tires with softer compounds will wear faster but also give you a higher grip. Also, abrasive tarmac is great for grip but will wear your tires out faster. Even the temperature can have an effect on tire wear, with hot temperatures usually wearing out tires more quickly.
As a general rule, autocross tires may need replacing after 12-15 full-day events. This means that you will be spending at least two sets of tires each year. Still, autocross is an expensive sport, as it requires a well-prepared car with good suspension and fresh tires.
However, it's crucial to regularly inspect your tires for signs of excessive wear, like worn-down tread or visible cords. If you notice any damage, you should immediately replace your tires with a new set.
- What are the signs of wear and tear I should look for in my autocross tires?
In addition to worn-down tread or visible cords, check for uneven wear (which could indicate an alignment issue), blisters or bulges (which could mean structural damage), and any cracks or cuts in the sidewalls.
Also, tires that have hardened due to age or heat cycles may not provide the grip you need, even if the tread looks good. This is not something you can notice by looking at the tires, but you will definitely feel it on your test run. Thus, if your tires don't grip like they did before, even if they have enough tread depth left, it means it's time for a new set of tires.
- How do weather conditions affect my choice of autocross tires?
Oh, the weather plays a crucial role in how your autocross tires perform. For that reason, many professional autocross racers and teams bring several different tire compounds and types to an event.
Notably, soft tires are usually at their best in warm and dry conditions, providing you with immense grip and traction. Meanwhile, hard compound tires will be better if your need to use them for longer periods, as they will wear more slowly than soft tires.
However, you will need to ask other racers for opinions and read online reviews to see which tire works best at a specific temperature. Most autocross tires will like hot conditions, but some will be better in colder climates.
Still, many autocross events are held in rainy conditions, where a special autocross tire would have real issues with traction. These tires can still work on slightly damp tarmac but will have real issues with wet tarmac and standing water. In rainy conditions, a better bet might be an extreme-performance or max-performance summer tire. Or, if you are a pro, you can spend some cash on rain-specific race tires.
- What tire pressure should I run in autocross?
The tire pressure is crucial in achieving the best results on an autocross track. It directly affects the car's handling characteristics, the tire's contact patch with the ground, and the overall performance of the vehicle.
Higher pressures will increase the responsiveness of the tire, meaning it will react more quickly to your inputs, whether that's steering, braking, or acceleration. Your car will also feel more agile and light on its feet. However, higher pressures reduce the contact patch with the road and could lead to reduced grip because less rubber is in contact with the road.
Meanwhile, lower pressures will increase the contact patch, leading to higher longitudinal traction and lateral grip. Still, if you corner too hard on an underinflated tire, it could roll under the rim, which can destabilize your vehicle. Moreover, your car will feel much less agile due to the softer sidewalls, the steering will be less responsive, and overall, the driving experience will be bland.
What you want is to find the perfect balance between agility and grip. Sadly, this isn't easy for amateur autocross drivers, as it requires previous knowledge and a lot of testing. With that said, the best practice is to start with the manufacturer's recommended pressure for your tire, which you can usually find on the tire's sidewall or the vehicle's placard. From there, you can fine-tune the pressure based on your observations and preferences.
Autocross and track drivers usually use the chalk method to find the perfect tire pressure. What you need to do is paint a line across each tire's tread (from one sidewall to another) and then go for a drive. If you notice that the line is rubbed off in the center, it means the pressure is too high. Meanwhile, if the line is rubbed off in the center, it indicates under-inflation.
Professional teams also use pyrometers to measure the temperature at specific places on the tread. Like with the chalk method, if the center of the tread gets hotter, it indicates overinflation, while hot edges mean underinflation. For best performance, the tread should be hotter in the middle or at around 10% from the sidewall edges.
With all that said, the perfect tire pressure will vary between 30-40 psi, so any value between those is a good starting point. Just make sure that you always check the pressure when the tires are at the environment temperature, as driving will put heat into them and increase the psi.
- Can I use autocross tires for everyday driving?
Although some autocross tires in the list above are street-legal, I would still be careful before putting them on my daily driver. The main reason for that is treadwear – you will be wasting the tread on these tires for driving slowly on public roads, often made from abrasive tarmac and filled with potholes and curbs.
Moreover, you won't see the performance benefits of autocross tires on public roads. In other words, these tires work best when driven at 100%. In fact, because of their specialized design, autocross tires might actually perform worse than regular tires under certain conditions, like colder weather and rain.
Furthermore, autocross tires are very costly, and their short lifetime only adds to the cost. If you have money to spare, sure, go for a set, but for most people, autocross tires should only be used on closed circuits.
Still, you can have some non-competitive autocross fun along with exceptional performance on the road if you opt for max-performance summer tires. These tires will give you a solid grip on autocross events and will kill any other tire type in rainy conditions, thanks to the remarkable grip they offer.
Not to mention, max-performance summer tires should last you for at least 20,000 miles before you need a new set (though autocross driving will accelerate the wear).
- What regulations should I be aware of when choosing autocross tires?
Before participating in an autocross event, it is essential to learn the rules and prepare your vehicle accordingly. Different organizations have specific tire requirements based on the class you are competing in, including minimum treadwear rating, restrictions on tire width, or requirements for using street-legal tires. So, make sure you read the rulebook carefully!
- How can I maximize the lifespan of my autocross tires?
You can use the same practices for maximizing the lifespan of your regular tires on autocross tires. Namely, you should rotate the tires regularly to ensure even wear while also checking the wheel alignment. Moreover, balancing the tires before each use will ensure great performance and long treadlife.
Furthermore, you should never overheat the tires and let them cool down between sessions. A tire's grip will diminish as it goes through multiple heat cycles, and its lifespan will be reduced. Also, make sure you check the pressure before each session and never drive hard on underinflated or overinflated tires.
Storage also plays a big role in how long your autocross tires will last. You should keep them in a cool and dry space when not in use, protected from sunlight and chemical contaminants. Also, autocross tires don't want freezing temperatures, so keep them somewhere warm (room temperature) during the winter.
Finally, autocross is all about driving smoothly, just like with every other racing competition. So, turning the vehicle too quickly or braking and accelerating hard will certainly wear your tires faster.
- What's the impact of tire size on autocross performance?
The size of the tire can have a great impact on the handling characteristics and grip you get. Wider tires usually add grip but at the expense of agility and performance since they are heavier than skinnier tires.
Moreover, low-profile tires will be more responsive and nimbler. However, they also react worse to temperature changes (they heat up faster) and will perform worse on bumpy tracks, as less sidewall means worse compliance.
Meanwhile, tire diameter can affect acceleration, braking, and gearing. Larger diameter tires effectively change the final drive ratio, resulting in higher top speeds but slower acceleration. Smaller diameter tires can improve acceleration but may reduce top speed.
Finding the perfect size is all about gauging the abilities of your vehicle, your preferred driving style, and the quality of the tarmac.
- How does tread pattern affect autocross tire performance?
In general, tires with less tread will perform better on autocross courses thanks to the larger contact patch between the rubber and the road. This improves grip and responsiveness, both crucial for achieving great times.
Less tread also reduces heat buildup and wear on the tire, which can affect performance over time. Still, some special autocross tires have minimal tread patterns for cooling purposes, but they are mostly slick.
However, any potential rain would render these near-slick tires useless. This is because there won't be enough grooves to channel water from the contact patch, which results in hydroplaning and a loss of traction.
Autocross is a fun and engaging sport that's a real magnet for drivers of various types of cars. You can even enter with your small city car, put on some good tires, upgrade the suspension, and compete. However, even in that scenario, you will need cash to continue competing, as tires and suspension components wear down faster when driven hard.
With that said, I hope that you have found a set of tires that will suit your car and autocross driving needs. At first, I thought of only including track-only autocross tires, but readers on this website are usually amateur drivers that want a piece of advice, so in the end, I mostly included street-legal tires.
Sure, these won't allow you to compete with professional teams, but you will definitely be able to compete in categories that require street-legal tires and even win! The tires I included here offer the highest grip in their respective categories and will undoubtedly give you a competitive advantage.
With all that said, if you didn't find a set of tires that suit your driving needs or budget, I still recommend going for a set from a reputable manufacturer. In the past decade, I've seen many cheap track tires from nameless manufacturers that promise high grip at a fraction of the price of premium tires. Still, in my experience, these cheap tires don't come close to the grip of premium tires and also suffer from very fast wear, often necessitating replacement after 3-4 events.
But what is your car/tire autocross combo? Do tell us in the comments below!
I’m Ivo Gievski, the content writer for Tireer. We built our website with over 15 years of experience and extensive research in the automotive and technology sectors. My dedication to delivering high-quality content is unwavering, and I strive to continuously hone my skills to stay ahead of industry trends and provide readers with informative, engaging, and valuable insights.